January 1956

CONFLICT OF INTEREST-- REPRESENTING AND SUING SAME CLIENT-- Though it may not technically be a breach of ethics, representing a client in one suit and suing him in a different and unrelated action is looked upon with misgivings.

Canon  6.


An attorney represents A in a boundary suit against B. Another suit is filed against A by C for damages for personal injuries in the amount of $75,000.00. A has not retained the attorney who represents him in the boundary suit nor discussed the case with him. The attorney represent C has requested the attorney for A in the boundary suit to become associated with him in the personal injury case against A. The question submitted is: "Will it be unethical for me to accept employment in the prosecution of the personal injury claim?"


The replies of the members of the committee indicate that this is a very close question. Four members of the committee are of the opinion that where an attorney's employment is limited in one case it would not be improper for him to accept employment against his client in another case, provided the second case is wholly unrelated in subject matter to the first, there has been a full disclosure of the facts, and the attorney has acquired no knowledge of the second case through his relationship in the first case.

Two members of the committee are of the opinion that there can be no categorical answer to the question, as it would depend upon the facts in each case, but doubt that an attorney could represent a client on one hand and sue him on the other without embarrassment.

Two members of the committee are of the opinion there would be impropriety in attempting to represent a client in one case and represent his opponent in another when both are pending at the same time.

It may be stated here that all members of the committee who replied look with misgivings upon the action of an attorney in trying to represent a client in one case and to sue him in another, even though technically no Canon of Ethics might be breached. (4-2)